CBS Badgers Republicans on the Economy; Went Easier on Obama

CBS hounded four Republicans from the left during a town hall on the economy which aired on Tuesday's Early Show. Bob Schieffer, Erica Hill, and Rebecca Jarvis pressed Reps. Paul Ryan and Allen West, Senator Tom Coburn, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to consider tax hikes to deal with the deficit. Schieffer also specifically accused the three members of Congress of "doing nothing" to fix the economy.

The two online questions which Jarvis took from viewers touted Democratic talking points about deficits under former President George W. Bush and how cutting the federal budget would lead to an increase in the unemployment rate, due to the laying off of federal employees. She also vigorously pursued both Rep.  Ryan and Rep. West. about the issue of jobs. In the first instance, the CBS business correspondent used an earlier answer from Haley, which emphasized the issue, to actually accuse the greater Republican Party of not paying enough attention to this issue, as well with the overall issue of the economy:

JARVIS: Representative Ryan, a lot of Governor Haley's response talks about jobs, and jobs are top of mind for Americans. The most recent CBS News poll showed that 48 percent of Americans think the most important thing is jobs and the economy, but just ten percent think it's the deficit. That's what we mostly hear from Republicans. We hear more about the deficit than we hear about jobs.

RYAN: Well, I wouldn't suggest- they're interrelated. These are the same issue, so they're not exclusive of one another. Jobs come from economic growth. Economic growth gives us more revenues (sic), which helps us get down the deficit. The huge deficit we have is nothing more than tomorrow's interest rate increases or tax rate increases. So, when government runs huge deficits, like it is today, what that tells businesses who are sitting on capital and not hiring, 'Look out, my taxes are gonna go up tomorrow or we're gonna have an inflation interest rate problem tomorrow.' And so, it is these massive deficits that are showing businesses that there's an uncertain future, an uncertain future with which they don't want to invest in, and that is why a lot of businesses are sitting on capital....

JARVIS: They also know it's coming from the consumer, though. There's no consumer demand for a lot of their products.

RYAN: Say that again?

JARVIS: They don't know what's coming from the consumer. The demand that is coming from American consumers is very weak, at this point, which is why they're not creating the jobs to sell the product or to manufacture it.

RYAN: Consumption comes when people feel secure in their own lives, when people have jobs that they are- that they feel secure in, when they're not worried about losing their job. You need to have a good economy that is producing jobs and giving security, economic security to Americans, who then will go forward and act like consumers.

And so, what we have right now is a government that is giving so much uncertainty- tax rates on successful small businesses under the President's plan, which is in law, is going as high as 44.8 percent on successful small businesses. Most of our jobs don't come from the big corporations. They come from these successful small businesses, and when we're going to be raising their taxes as much as President Obama is proposing, that puts a chilling effect on job creation.
 

Closer the end of the hour-long town hall, Jarvis initiated a similar sparring match on jobs with Rep. West:

Rebecca Jarvis, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgJARVIS: Well, we have a question from Brian Olphie from Post Falls, Idaho. He sent it via e-mail. He says, 'Considering the fact that the U.S. government is the nation's largest employer, how do you expect to cut $2 trillion from the budget without sending the jobless rate through the roof?' And Representative West, why don't you take it?

WEST: I think it's important for us to- as we say, we got to get back to understanding what are the essential functions of the federal government....Thirteen appropriations bills come out of the House of Representatives. What's the priority? No one could answer that, and that's why I wrote a letter over to the House Appropriations chairman, Hal Rodgers- why don't we have a tiered progress- program so that we say, 'These are the priorities, and then we can understand from the bottom up. We can start to refine. We can start to cut., and get the federal government back into its essential functions.'...So, we have to make the hard decisions up here....We've got to make a change.

JARVIS: Coming back to the question, though, of jobs. We are facing a new reality. We are a facing a reality-

WEST: Government does not create jobs. The private sector creates jobs, and if we continue to-

JARVIS: Right- and we are looking at private sector right now that's not doing it....They're shipping them overseas-

WEST: You're not setting the conditions for the private sector to grow. You're not setting the condition....You just heard a corporate business tax rate of 35 percent, the highest in the world. Who is going to be able to create a job in the United States of America, bring production and manufacturing back to this country, if you're pushing them away?

JARVIS: Well, Ford Motor Company, for example, is creating jobs-

WEST: Ford Motor Company did not take any bailout money and they created jobs....

JARVIS: They're creating 7,000 jobs here over the next two years. But they're also building a third of their cars and producing a third of their cars for the Asian market by 2020. That means the market is changing. The world is changing. People overseas are the primary customers of U.S. businesses....If they are building cars for foreign counterparts, why aren't they building them in foreign countries? That's exactly what they are doing. How do you work against fate?

Earlier in the program, the third question from the audience broached the tax hike issue (Schieffer labeled it "fairly interesting"): "There's a lot of agreement that we need to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. How realistic are we in achieving those goals if we do not reinstate or raise, at least, some taxes?" Schieffer directed this question to Senator Coburn and added, "So, should taxes be off the table?" A similar question also came later from the audience:

CRYSTAL GRANT, NON-PROFIT ADMINISTRATOR: My question is about compromise. With low and middle-class Americans making sacrifices every day and the deficit growing exponentially, it seems difficult to justify tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Are you open to considering- maybe tax- returning to previous levels for those making over $500,000 a year, versus a $250,000 level?

The "Face the Nation" anchor also followed his colleague's example in hounding the congressional panelists on their apparent inaction on the economy. All of this contrasts with the earlier town hall with Mr. Obama, who was not pressed for answers at all by the CBS journalists:

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, the three members of Congress here: you've been here since January. To the best of my knowledge, you've done absolutely nothing. There's no jobs program. You've got unemployment at 9.1 percent. Why is that?

RYAN: Well, we have divided government now. First of all, what happened the last two years-

SCHIEFFER: Well, there's always been divided government- well, lots of times-

RYAN: ...What have we done since January? In the House of Representatives, where the two of us work, we've passed a budget to reform this tax system, make people take away tax shelters from higher income individuals in exchange for lower tax rates for businesses to create jobs-

SCHIEFFER: Congressman, not to be argumentative, but you passed something that you knew there wasn't one chance that the Senate was going to pass.

RYAN: Well, it'd be nice if the Senate tried to pass a budget. It's been 775 days since the Senate even bothered trying to pass a budget.

SCHIEFFER: But wouldn't it be good to try to find some way to compromise on these things....to kind of get the people at the same table and say- here's something we want to do, here's something you want to do- instead of passing these things that people know will never get agreed to by the other house?

On average, the GOP panelists were given less time to answer the 15 questions given to them by the journalists, as well as from members of the audience and from the Internet. For example, the President gave a six minute and five second answer on the Medicare issue during his May 12 town hall. On the other hand, CBS allowed Rep. Paul Ryan to speak for only three minutes and 39 seconds to defend his plan to reform the federal program. However, the total speaking time for the four right-of-center politicians did equal the total elapsed time for the President - about 27 and a half minutes.

The transcript of the questions asked during Tuesday's town hall event on CBS during the 8 am Eastern hour of The Early Show, along with some of the Republicans' answers for context:

Senator Tom Coburn; South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley; Rep. Allen West; Rep. Paul Ryan; Erica Hill, CBS News Anchor; & Bob Schieffer, CBS News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgTRAE LEWIS, POLICE OFFICER: Good morning, everyone. There are many ways that people feel as though President Obama isn't using- to stimulate and make the economy more robust. If you were in the position to do so, what would be the one thing you would do to stimulate and grow the economy that President Obama isn't doing?

BOB SCHIEFFER (to Reps. Ryan and West): Start Congressmen?

SCHIEFFER: Governor?

SCHIEFFER: Senator?

(....)

ERICA HILL: We want to move on to our next question now. Nancy Logan is an executive assistant who's currently between jobs. And, chances are, Nancy may look familiar if you were with us at last month's town hall. She was here. She asked the President pretty much the same question, so, your chance now to ask it of Republican leaders.

NANCY LOGAN, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: Thank you, Erica. Hello. I was given a three-year adjustable rate loan modification that ends in less than a year, and the rate is likely to go up significantly, where I won't be able to afford my monthly mortgage payment. I can't refinance my house or move into a fixed rate mortgage, because I owe more than the house is worth. My question is, what is your party in Congress doing to help Americans, like myself, who are stuck in this home mortgage process dilemma?

HILL: And we want to toss this one to Congressman West, because I know in Florida, I believe, it's 46 percent of homes are under water.

SCHIEFFER: Senator- I mean, Congressman Ryan?

(....)

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let's go to Robert Johnson, who has, I think, a fairly interesting question here. Mr. Johnson?

ROBERT JOHNSON, RETIRED: Thank you, Bob. Good morning. There's a lot of agreement that we need to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. How realistic are we in achieving those goals if we do not reinstate or raise, at least, some taxes?

SCHIEFFER: I want to ask Senator Colburn to answer that question, because Senator Colburn voted against the continuation of the Bush tax cuts last December- kind of got off the Republican reservation there. He wanted them offset. So, should taxes be off the table, Senator Coburn?

(....)

REBECCA JARVIS: Bob, thank you, and this first question comes from Facebook. It was submitted to us from Suzanne Thornton of Cushing, Texas, and she asks, 'Under a Democratic president, Clinton, we had a surplus. Under a Republican president, Bush, it disappeared and turned into a deficit. So why should we hand our country back over to Republicans?" Governor Haley, why don't you take this one?

(....)

SCHIEFFER: Governor, can I just ask you this question: corporations are turning in record profits right now, but they don't seem to be hiring. So, doesn't that beg the question here, why aren't they hiring with all these big profits coming?

(....)

JARVIS: Representative Ryan, a lot of Governor Haley's response talks about jobs, and jobs are top of mind for Americans. The most recent CBS News poll showed that 48 percent of Americans think the most important thing is jobs and the economy, but just ten percent think it's the deficit. That's what we mostly hear from Republicans. We hear more about the deficit than we hear about jobs.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: Well, I wouldn't suggest- they're interrelated. These are the same issue, so they're not exclusive of one another. Jobs come from economic growth. Economic growth gives us more revenues, which helps us get down the deficit. The huge deficit we have is nothing more than tomorrow's interest rate increases or tax rate increases. So, when government runs huge deficits, like it is today, what that tells businesses who are sitting on capital and not hiring, 'Look out, my taxes are gonna go up tomorrow or we're gonna have an inflation interest rate problem tomorrow.' And so, it is these massive deficits that are showing businesses that there's an uncertain future, an uncertain future with which they don't want to invest in, and that is why a lot of businesses are sitting on capital.

I had a roundtable in Kenosha with business leaders last Thursday. I went two hours ago with business leaders. All of them are telling me the same thing: 'We don't know what's coming from government next. So many new regulations coming down the pike, all these new taxes.' And so, it is hurting job creation-

REBECCA JARVIS: They also know it's coming from the consumer, though. There's no consumer demand for a lot of their products.

RYAN: Say that again?

JARVIS: They don't know what's coming from the consumer. The demand that is coming from American consumers is very weak, at this point, which is why they're not creating the jobs to sell the product or to manufacture it.

RYAN: Consumption comes when people feel secure in their own lives, when people have jobs that they are- that they feel secure in, when they're not worried about losing their job. You need to have a good economy that is producing jobs and giving security, economic security to Americans, who then will go forward and act like consumers.

And so, what we have right now is a government that is giving so much uncertainty- tax rates on successful small businesses under the President's plan, which is in law, is going as high as 44.8 percent on successful small businesses. Most of our jobs don't come from the big corporations. They come from these successful small businesses, and when we're going to be raising their taxes as much as President Obama is proposing, that puts a chilling effect on job creation. When we raise and borrow all this money- 42 cents out of every dollar coming out of Washington, it's borrowed. Forty-seven percent is coming from other countries like China. This is not a future in which people, businesses, or consumers feel confident in the American economy. We got to deal with these issues, so we can feel confident and get this job creation back on.

HILL: There's obviously a vicious cycle here, and it doesn't help-

RYAN: That's right-

HILL: That the U.S. economy is absolutely a consumer-driven economy. You talk about the importance of confidence. You talk a lot about small businesses. But going back to large businesses who are sitting on this cash-

RYAN: That's right.

HILL: Isn't one of the major issues also that they have learned how to do more with less, and it is not in their interest to hire people. Is there any way you can change that?

(....)


SCHIEFFER: And next, we have a little question about taxes. Senator Coburn, I'm going to ask this one be directed to you, and it comes from Crystal Grant.

CRYSTAL GRANT, NON-PROFIT ADMINISTRATOR: Greetings. I'm originally from Boiling Springs, South Carolina, so greetings to you, Governor Haley. My question is about compromise. With low and middle-class Americans making sacrifices every day and the deficit growing exponentially, it seems difficult to justify tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Are you open to considering- maybe tax- returning to previous levels for those making over $500,000 a year, versus a $250,000 level?

(....)

SCHIEFFER: What would be your take on that, Mr. West?

(....)

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, the three members of Congress here: you've been here since January. To the best of my knowledge, you've done absolutely nothing. There's no jobs program. You've got unemployment at 9.1 percent. Why is that?

RYAN: Well, we have divided government now. First of all, what happened the last two years-

SCHIEFFER: Well, there's always been divided government- well, lots of times-

RYAN: Well, the jobs program is a trillion dollars when you add the borrowing cost in stimulus. Remember what stimulus was supposed to do? It was supposed to keep unemployment from going above eight percent. We're at 9.1. We went as high as 9.8 percent. What else happened? A tax increase- $800 billion in tax increases with the President's health care law. The health care law passed, which is basically the government taking over 17 percent of our economy. We've got new energy regulations coming through, putting a chilling effect on American-made energy, to lower our gas prices.

And so, with so much has come from the government in the last two years, I believe that that is the greatest reason why the economy's not growing. What have we done since January? In the House of Representatives, where the two of us work, we've passed a budget to reform this tax system, make people take away tax shelters from higher income individuals in exchange for lower tax rates for businesses to create jobs-

SCHIEFFER: Congressman, not to be argumentative, but you passed something that you knew there wasn't one chance that the Senate was going to pass.

RYAN: Well, it'd be nice if the Senate tried to pass a budget. It's been 775 days since the Senate even bothered trying to pass a budget.

SCHIEFFER: But wouldn't it be good to try to find some way to compromise on these things-

RYAN: That's why we've said-

SCHIEFFER: To kind of get the people at the same table and say- here's something we want to do, here's something you want to do- instead of passing these things that people know will never get agreed to by the other house?

(....)

SCHIEFFER: Senator?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, I think- Bob, I think what you're describing is a system of the careerism that has invaded and, perhaps, been here a long time. The goal is the next election, not the next generation right now in Washington

RYAN: Absolutely-

COBURN: It- we're more interested in political careers than we are fixing the very real and urgent problems in front of our country. The Senate has- this is the lowest level of votes the Senate has had in my seven years and the lowest level of votes in 25 years, and the reason we're not voting is people don't want to take a vote because they might have to defend it. So, rather than come up here and do the job and have the courage and the honor to go out and defend your votes, what we do is we just don't vote.

HILL: How do you change that though? How do you change that, Senator? And the approval rating for Congress is 18 percent!

COBURN: You change it with leadership- you change it with leadership-

RYAN: You change it with your own actions-

HILL: But leadership- leadership continues to change-

RYAN: We've put ideas on the table.

(....)

SCHIEFFER: Governor Haley looks like she'd like to comment here.

(....)

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask Senator Coburn to wrap this up, because I think he hit the nail on the head here. Is there any way to change this, Senator? I mean, will we see a change in our lifetime?

COBURN: Yeah, I think American people need to change it, though. I-

RYAN: Yeah. That's why we're here.

COBURN:  I'm convinced that Washington is- its main focus is short-term political expediency, and the reason our country's at risk is because we think short term and about the next election, rather than thinking about the future of our country. You know, the reason I'll stand up as a conservative Republican, one of the biggest deficit hawks in Congress and say, 'I'll negotiate on taxes,' [is] because our country's in trouble, and if we don't, we're going to lose the very limited future that's in front of us today and somebody else is going to tell us where we're gonna spend our money. It isn't gonna be the American people. It's gonna be the bond holders throughout the world.

JARVIS: So, Senator Coburn, do we go the direction, then, of the United Kingdom and employ austerity measures and face, potentially, a toxic environment- that's what the Bank of England just said- a toxic environment where there's slow growth and inflation, taking place at the same time?

(....)

HILL: We- and with that, we actually have to move on to the next topic- although we could talk about this for a long time- and this comes from Leslie who's in our audience. Leslie has a question about Medicare.

LESLIE SIDDELEY, ACCOUNT MANAGER: Hi there. I'm 48 years old, so I'm in the age group that would be impacted to the changes to the Medicare program under the so-called Ryan plan. I'm also the caretaker of an elderly parent. It's common in my age group. How can I be certain that Medicare will be affordable for me when it comes time for me to retire, especially considering I've been paying in for 30 years?

(....)

JARVIS: Well, we have a question from Brian Olphie from Post Falls, Idaho. He sent it via e-mail. He says, 'Considering the fact that the U.S. government is the nation's largest employer, how do you expect to cut $2 trillion from the budget without sending the jobless rate through the roof?' And Representative West, why don't you take it?

REPRESENTATIVE ALLEN WEST: I think it's important for us to- as we say, we got to get back to understanding what are the essential functions of the federal government. One of the questions I asked when I got up here- because I'm a newbie; I've been here since the 5th of January, never held any type of public office before- but it's- once again, it's a common-sense approach. It's a very disciplined approach that the military teaches you.

Thirteen appropriations bills come out of the House of Representatives. What's the priority? No one could answer that, and that's why I wrote a letter over to the House Appropriations chairman, Hal Rodgers- why don't we have a tiered progress- program so that we say, 'These are the priorities, and then we can understand from the bottom up. We can start to refine. We can start to cut., and get the federal government back into its essential functions.'

So, I think that, you know, we can have this bureaucratic nanny state that grows up here in Washington, D.C., and if you continue to have that, you're going to continue to have the separation between the revenues that are coming in and the spending that is going out. And so, what we've seen in the past three years, $1.42 trillion. $1.29 trillion, and now, $1.65 trillion of deficits. So, we have to make the hard decisions up here, and I think that's one of the reasons why persons like the governor and myself- we're not career politicians, and we're bringing in a perspective that is totally different and outside of the Beltway, to say-

JARVIS: Coming back to the question--

WEST: We've got to make a change.

JARVIS: Coming back to the question, though, of jobs. We are facing a new reality. We are a facing a reality-

WEST: Government does not create jobs. The private sector creates jobs, and if we continue to-

JARVIS: Right- and we are looking at private sector right now that's not doing it-

WEST: If we continue to believe-

JARVIS: They're shipping them overseas-

WEST: You're not setting the conditions for the private sector to grow. You're not setting the conditions-

JARVIS: Well, let me tell you what the conditions are-

WEST: You just heard a corporate business tax rate of 35 percent, the highest in the world. Who is going to be able to create a job in the United States of America, bring production and manufacturing back to this country, if you're pushing them away?

JARVIS: Well, Ford Motor Company, for example, is creating jobs-

WEST: Ford Motor Company did not take any bailout money and they created jobs-

JARVIS: Exactly- they are.

WEST: Great company-

JARVIS: They're creating 7,000 jobs here over the next two years. But they're also building a third of their cars and producing a third of their cars for the Asian market by 2020. That means the market is changing. The world is changing. People overseas are the primary customers of U.S. businesses.

WEST: Absolutely, and that's why-

JARVIS: If they are building cars for foreign counterparts, why aren't they building them in foreign countries? That's exactly what they are doing. How do you work against fate?

(....)

HILL: We are back with time for one quick final question- a yes or no if you can- do you believe the debt ceiling will be raised?

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center